Does Social Security insure workers against disability? | Law Office of Jennifer Zorrilla
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Does Social Security insure workers against disability?

Although the reference to insurance is included in its name, readers may have questions about whether they could be considered the equivalent of “policy holders” under the Social Security disability insurance program. The answer depends on several factors.

As a preliminary matter, the insurance model refers to the payroll taxes that are withheld from workers’ checks. Along with a matching employer portion, those funds are deposited into two trust funds overseen by the Social Security Administration. Payments to SSDI beneficiaries come from one of those trusts, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

Accordingly, SSDI eligibility is contingent upon a minimum number of years that a worker has paid into that DI trust fund. With exceptions, as in the case of younger workers, that work history must also include 5 of the 10 years immediately preceding the date that the worker became disabled. 

Yet work history is only half of the challenge in qualifying for SSDI benefits. Applicants must also prove not only that they have a certain physical or mental disability, but also that the resulting functional impairment prevents them from working. In that task, less than forty percent of SSDI applicants are successful.

According to recent data, about 91 percent of workers are protected by this program -- theoretically. In practice, however, there can be challenges in qualifying for benefits. Without the help of a disability benefits attorney, a worker who has paid into the system but been rendered unable to work by a severe illness or injury might be unfairly treated. The SSDI program was established to provide a crucial safety net to America’s workers. A disability benefits attorney can work to uphold that ideal.

Source: Center for American Progress, “Social Security Disability Insurance - A Bedrock of Security for American Workers,” Rebecca Vallas and Shawn Fremstad, July 8, 2014

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